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Explore San Diego

LGBT Travel Guide

Hillcrest is at the center of San Diego's vibrant LGBT community but friendly locals welcome all visitors throughout the county

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San Diego's Gay Community Rocks

From hot nightclubs and popular wine bars to LGBT-focused theater productions and clothing-optional Black's Beach, it's no wonder San Diego ranks among the top LGBT destinations in the world. The community enjoys strong support from numerous local politicians, several of them openly gay and lesbian, plus a large variety of businesses and civic organizations. In addition, the San Diego Padres publicly acknowledges its LGBT fans to Petco Park stadium during 'Out at the Park,' organized every spring by San Diego LGBT Pride.

Theater

One of the oldest LGBT theaters in the country, Diversionary Theatre, produces edgy dramas and playful musicals with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual themes year-round. You can also catch pre-Broadway hits at the Tony Award®-winning La Jolla Playhouse and The Old Globe. Additionally, top-name comedians and musical productions comprise the playbill at Observatory North Park (formerly the North Park Theater), a historic venue that has been an anchor in the LGBT community since it was restored to her grandness in 2005.

Museums and Galleries

San Diego is home to 85 cultural institutions and nearly two dozen museums. Art buffs can behold the world-class American-European collection at the Timken Museum of Art as well as paintings and sculptures from the 19th and 20th centuries at the San Diego Museum of Art. Both are located in Balboa Park amid lush gardens and Spanish-Renaissance architecture. The 1,200-acre park is where you'll also find the Museum of Photographic ArtsSan Diego Museum of ManSan Diego Natural History MuseumSan Diego Air & Space Museum and several others.

Art galleries abound throughout the city, particularly along Ray Street in North Park, where the well-attended Ray at Night art walk is held from 6:00 to 10:00 PM on the second Saturday of every month. The event often showcases exhibit openings, allowing visitors to interact with artists over a glass of champagne.

Dining and Nightlife

San Diego's culinary compass points in all directions with hundreds of restaurants capturing the cuisines of nearly every continent as well as domestic, contemporary meals that pay tribute to our local farmers and fishermen. Many of the restaurants are located in the LGBT hub of Hillcrest and extend into the surrounding Uptown neighborhoods of University Heights, North Park and Mission Hills. The pickings grow even larger when factoring in the huge concentrations of restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter, East Village, Little Italy, Old Town, Point Loma and the beach communities of Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach.

Although for LGBT travelers seeking big doses of festive social interaction over casual fare and feisty drinks, simply loop back to Hillcrest and drop by Urban Mo's Bar & GrillBaja Betty'sUptown TavernMartinis Above Fourth or the lesbian-operated Gossip Grill. Each has patios that open in the afternoon, although on weekends the Saturday "disco brunch" and Sunday "church" happy hour at Babycakes attract a devoted patronage.

Evenings usher in the crowds at dance clubs such as Rich'sNumbers and The Brass Rail. Gossip Grill also features a dance floor that kicks into high gear after sunset. Outside the club scene, Pec'sThe Hole and Redwing Bar & Grill are among the community's "jeans and leather" joints that greet with a solid neighborhood feel.

Exploring the Great Outdoors

San Diego is like a big outdoor gym that allows visitors to stay active while soaking in the sun and landscape. Whether you're taking part in a walking tour with Urban Safaris or hoofing throughout the city on your own, consider strolling the hilly, palm tree-lined streets of Mission Hills; the canyons of Presidio Park; or the winding sidewalks hugging Mission Bay Park, where you can also rent pedal boats, kayaks and WaveRunners. And of course, Balboa Park is an undisputed walker's paradise with its gardens, trails and historic promenade.

Looking for a little extra resistance? Mission Trails Regional Park features dozens of trails snaking through 5,800 acres of rugged hills and valleys. This breathtaking reserve is located less than five miles northeast of Hillcrest.

Your days in the sun aren't complete without visiting San Diego's major theme parks. The centrally located San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park and SeaWorld San Diego not only offer close encounters with the animals, but they also boast beautiful landscaping and feature an array of dining options. Further north are LEGOLAND California and the sprawling San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Accommodations

San Diego's family of gay-friendly hotels offers something for everyone, from intimate bed and breakfast inns to historic and boutique hotels.

  • Hillcrest House Bed & Breakfast - This cottage-style property provides all the comforts of home ranging from comfy furnishings and a guest parlor to buffet breakfasts included in the room rates.
  • Porto Vista Hotel & Suites - Sleek and stylish, the hotel is situated a block off the main strip of Little Italy. Guests are close to both Hillcrest and Downtown and can enjoy excellent views of the neighborhood and San Diego Bay while having a drink or meal in the property's fourth-floor Glass Door restaurant.
  • Sommerset Suites Hotel - Complete with a courtyard and year-round heated pool, the hotel is located just steps away from the heart of Hillcrest. 
  • Inn at the Park - This stately and historic brick structure resides at the edge of Balboa Park and in walking distance to the shops, bars and restaurants in Hillcrest.
  • Balboa Park Inn - Located in Hillcrest just a short walk from the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park, the property features 26 themed suites within a charming Spanish colonial-style structure. Choose your escape options from rooms called the "jungle nook," the "Orient Express" and "beach house."

More Information

Below are links to LGBT organizations and news sources that offer an array of information to enhance your stay in San Diego.

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